Stephanie Tardieu, MD, a gynecologist at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, was moved to write down her thoughts and feelings after the 16th Annual Breakfast of Legends on November 14, which she has generously shared with us. Below, please find her reflections on the event.

It is a cold November morning in Manhattan as I sit at my office desk today, reflecting on the event that I just attended—a breakfast benefit for the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center called the Breakfast of Legends.

I had been hearing about the event for several weeks and as a new hire at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, this would be my first time attending.

My name is Stephanie Tardieu and I am a gynecologist who just started working at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in August of 2019. I work with the team here to provide comprehensive Obstetric and Gynecologic care to the young people who are treated at the center every day. When I first heard the name ‘Breakfast of Legends,’ I thought it was a catchy title designed to attract people to sign up for and attend the breakfast benefit. What I could not have foreseen was that there could have been no truer title to describe this event.

The 16th Annual Breakfast of Legends was held this cold November morning at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in midtown at 7:30 in the morning.

People gathered together, greeting old colleagues and friends over a breakfast of mushroom and goat cheese frittatas accompanied by a warm cup of coffee to hear about the incredible work being done by the clinicians and the young people being cared for at the Center.

What followed were beautiful testimonies from the Center’s director Dr. Angela Diaz and the Center’s staff and clinicians about the work that the Center does to provide free and comprehensive physical and mental health services, improving the lives of young people in New York City. A renowned thoracic surgeon, a social worker, a COO, a project manager and the head of a nonprofit health insurance company were honored for their extraordinary work in supporting the mission of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. They gave compelling, heart-warming stories about what their work means to them and how the mission of the Center enriches their careers and their lives. But all this paled in comparison to the testimonies provided by the true heroes and legends of the day, the young people who receive care at the Center.

The young people that I care for at the Center are, more often than not, the most at risk among us.

They range in age from 10 to 25 years old and tend to come from a lower socioeconomic class; most are young people of color. Many have experienced trauma and live with mental health issues as a result. Few have solid support systems, health insurance or the means to obtain excellent health services on their own.

But despite the adversity and struggle that so many of them have faced, they still have the courage to brave the world and face the next day. Sometimes the kids come to the Center for something as simple as a yeast infection or a regular checkup. But the sense of welcome and compassion that the amazing staff gives them often inspires them to open up about years of hardship, which starts the process of healing that so many of the young people spoke about this morning.

More and more, we seem to live in a society that values celebrity, glamour and a time-is-money mentality above all else.

This is reflected in the media, award shows, the internet and most advertisements that we see on a daily basis. How awesome and refreshing it was to sit in this large and glamorous ballroom dressed in our best, to honor, applaud and celebrate true heroes: young people who have experienced terrible hardship, overcome true adversity, and despite all this have opened themselves up and told their stories to the world. All sitting at my table and around us were moved to standing ovations at many points. These young people have undertaken the monumental task of healing with the free services provided by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and now are thriving in their communities, working hard on their dreams, and making the world a better place.

A young man recited a quote in his speech this morning: “Healing begins when people feel heard.”

I am honored to be a part of a center where compassion and going out of your way to help someone is the standard. I am honored to work in a center whose principal mission is to treat all people with respect and dignity regardless of color, creed, gender or identity. I am honored to play a small role in uplifting and caring for the most vulnerable members of our city because as I saw this morning this small help can transform someone’s entire life. I am glad to help these young people feel heard, for they will be the next generation of leaders. From what I saw this morning, they are well on their way to transforming their communities and the world around them into a better place.